Getting Along With Your Caster

By Carl MorfinoIt’s Thursday afternoon. The wedding is Saturday and your caster still has not returned your order. What went wrong?Evidently there was a break down in communication somewhere, and at this point there is no margin for error. There’s still time to save the order, but everyone involved must perform flawlessly so that you can meet your deadline and satisfy your customer. The key to this flawless performance is communication. If you’ve done all your advance work properly, those last few days before the delivery is scheduled should be stress free.

The purpose of this article is to provide guidelines for communicating with your caster. It will provide you with a better understanding of the necessary preparation you should take, and what you can expect from your caster as a result. Trust me; with a little help, organization is possible (even for a caster). Read on!

When starting a new relationship with a caster, a phone call or at least a brief note is in order. Not only is it important for you to introduce yourself to the caster, it is also an excellent time to get an overview of the services offered and company policies. If possible try to speak to the owner. If he or she is unavailable, request a return call. Their response to this request should give a good indication of what kind of service is to follow.

The following topics should be discussed, along with any others you have a question about.

Credit policy:
Find out what information is necessary to establish an open account and how long it will take. Some casters will offer a starting credit line for accounts with a good Jewelers Board of Trade (JBT) rating. If your company is not rated, the first order is usually sent COD while the credit application is being reviewed. Sometimes a credit application faxed in advance may save COD charges. Make sure you answer all questions, as this will eliminate additional phone calls and expedite the credit investigation.

Services:
Besides casting, you may want to know whether they have any other manufacturing capabilities. Some examples may include model-making, mold-making, wax work and finishing. If these services are of interest to you and not provided in-house, ask for reliable recommendations.

Schedule:
Find out how the caster schedules his production. Very few casters cast every type of metal every single day. You’ll want to learn which metals are cast on a daily basis, which on a weekly basis. This information will enable you to better plan and meet your deadlines.

Price:
When evaluating your cost, include both metal and labor charges. Sometimes a low price-per-pennyweight can be misleading, if the labor charge is very high. Also inquire about minimum charges that may affect your cost. Some casters require a minimum number of pieces per order, or charge a minimum labor equal to that. For example, if their minimum quantity is three pieces and the labor charge is five dollars each, they would impose a fifteen dollar minimum charge if you only order one piece.

Return Policy:
This can be a tough subject to discuss up front, but it’s very important. What is their policy regarding returns? Be sure to discuss metal credits and labor credit. This will differ depending who’s at fault. Also, find out if there is a specified time limit for placing a claim.

Contact Information:
You should request the names and direct phone extensions of qualified personnel to answer the various questions that you may have during the course of your business relationship. This can include: technical information; order status, billing information; and shipping dates. This will save time on subsequent calls, and help ensure that you are getting accurate information.

Once you are satisfied with information listed above, you’re ready to send your order to the caster. The primary part of this will be the physical materials you give him (models, molds and waxes). Before you do this, the following areas should be evaluated. If there are any questions, now is a good time to use the phone number for that technical person you received earlier.

Once you are satisfied with information listed above, you’re ready to send your order to the caster. The primary part of this will be the physical materials you give him (models, molds and waxes). Before you do this, the following areas should be evaluated. If there are any questions, now is a good time to use the phone number for that technical person you received earlier.

  1. Sprue – proper location and dimension is crucial to the casting process. When in doubt, it is probably best to let your caster make that decision.
  2. Wall thickness – this should be adequate to allow for shrinkage that will occur when making rubber mold. Rubber mold shrinkage will vary depending on the rubber used.
  3. Finger size – this should be 1/2 size larger than the size desired. A regular rubber mold will usually yield a wax that shrinks a 1/2 of a finger size. Another 1/4 size will occur from shrinkage in the investment mold which will be recovered when polishing the inside of the shank.
  4. Prongs – these must be of proper length, dimension and placement to set the stones.
  5. Holes – all holes and pits in the master model should be repaired . Although it is possible to remove these in the rubber mold, it is far more consistent (and cheaper) to do it on the model.
  6. Air Lines – all galleries and air lines should be clean. Avoid sharp edges or tight openings where the mold rubber might tear. Removal of all excess metal will save time later, and prolong mold life.
  7. Finish – a model with a high polish finish will provide for easier wax removal from the mold, and a cleaner casting. For this reason, some manufacturers have their master models plated with rhodium.
  8. Style number – All models and molds should have style numbers assigned before they are sent to the caster. This will enable you to communicate about a specific style when multiple styles are involved. It will also ensure that the style number will not rub off if it is applied before the rubber is vulcanized.

Rather than send in the master models, some manufacturers prefer to provide their own molds. You will find that most casters would rather work with molds cut in their shop, especially for production items. But if your mold has provided good results in the past, they should work fine.

Make sure each mold you send to the caster has your company name and style number marked on it. However, karat, color and quantity information should be listed on your order, not on the mold. Be sure to indicate if the mold is to be returned or retained for future orders. If you are providing your own waxes, they should be clean and not contain powder or other release agents. Inspect your waxes the same way you would the final casting. Any blemishes on the wax will be reproduced on the casting, and that is not the casters fault. Be sure to check for air bubbles trapped under the surface.

If possible, you should provide extra waxes, or even the rubber mold to allow the caster to recast in the event of a reject. If your are sending a hand-made wax, be sure you are familiar with the caster’s policy in the event of a mishap. There are precautions you can take [see silicone molds] which will limit your exposure and help guarantee the return of a casting.

Be sure to pack all waxes carefully in hard sided container prior to shipping, and make sure they are not touching. A layer of cotton surrounding the wax will help provide the necessary protection while in transit.

Now that you have taken care of all the physical material you need to send, it’s time to prepare the detail information the caster will need to process the order. When shipping your order, the following information will help keep your caster organized and on schedule.

  1. Order Sheet: It is generally best to include a separate sheet of paper with your order. When order information is listed on individual job bags, some information may be left out or changed when rewritten. However, each job bag should carry the style number and company name.
  2. Address: If you have different billing and shipping addresses, be sure to indicate this on the order sheet. Avoid using P.O. boxes when possible, as this limits the choice of shipping carriers and will cause a delay for COD packages.
  3. Contact: Include the name of person at your company who is familiar with the order and is authorized to answer any questions.
  4. Phone Number: Include a phone where you can be reached, and indicate the best time of day to call. Also include a fax number when applicable, as this will save time and offer an additional choice for communicating.
  5. Purchase Order Number: P.O. numbers are very helpful when inquiring about a specific job, either before or after delivery.
  6. Style Number: All models and molds should have style numbers assigned before they are sent to the caster. This will enable you to communicate about a specific style when multiple styles are involved.
  7. Mold Type: When you are sending a model, be sure to indicate the type of mold you wish to have made. Refer to the price and shrinkage information discussed previously to determine which is best suited for your job and budget.
  8. Karat: List this separately for each style.
  9. Color: Color should also be listed for each piece. Try to be as specific as possible, and avoid using abbreviations which may not be universally recognized. When requesting two-tone ring, list each piece separately with a color. eg. Shank in yellow and top in white
  10. Quantity: Be explicit when it comes to ordering pairs or sets. For example if your are ordering earrings, request either 12 pieces or 6 pair, rather then just 12 or 6
  11. Special instructions: List special instructions on the order sheet for each style. Be explicit. For example, when requesting sizing in the wax, specify if size given is for casting or finished piece. It’s better to tell the caster too much than too little, especially if you’re on a tight deadline.
  12. Deadline Date: Always indicate the specific date castings need to be in your hands. Simply writing “Rush!” on the order leaves far too much room for interpretation. Be sure you allow sufficient time for finishing when establishing the deadline date.
  13. Shipping Instructions: Depending on the deadline date, there is usually some flexibility in this area. Often, customers will specify next-day shipping only because they are not sure how long it will take to produce their order. If the deadline date can be met utilizing a less expensive shipping method, you will save money.

As with any business relationship, the effectiveness with which a manufacturer and caster work together hinges on communication. By following these simple steps, manufacturers can take a lot of the guesswork out of their casting orders. This can help ensure that come Thursday afternoon, with the wedding only hours away, you already have your castings in hand.

Carl Morfino is president of Quality Casting Inc., a New York-based contract casting company specializing in gold and platinum.